Sheffield United: Political decisions could aid bid to keep Filip Uremovic at Bramall Lane

If the question is put to him before Saturday’s game against Fulham, Paul Heckingbottom will reply he is only focused on trying to lead Sheffield United into the play-offs and that Filip Uremovic’s contract with the club is only a short term agreement anyway.
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But privately, given Bramall Lane’s recruitment specialists have not been granted leave of absence until their top six fate is known, United will be exploring the viability of retaining the Croat’s services next season following a series of potentially pertinent announcements by UEFA and FIFA.

Although Uremovic is expected to start what could potentially be his final match for United on the bench after Chris Basham was parachuted straight back into the starting eleven after recovering from an injury, the 25-year-old remains an important member of Heckingbottom’s squad. Indeed, the United manager told The Star towards the end of last month that the centre-half was also signed to provide cover and competition for John Egan, who counts Celtic and West Ham among his admirers, as well as Basham.

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By Heckingbottom’s own admission, talent spotters Paul Mitchell and Jared Dublin spent several seasons tracking Uremovic before football’s governing bodies allowed him to suspend his contract with Rubin Kazan following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That allowed United to capture a defender previously deemed to be beyond their financial reach. With the ban prohibiting Leonid Slutsky’s side and other members of the Russian Premier League from taking part in European competitions being extended, it could now prove difficult for officials in Nyon and Zurich to force Uremovic to Tatarstan when his deal with United is scheduled to expire at the end of June.

With the hardline stance both UEFA and FIFA have adopted following the outbreak of hostilities in eastern Europe showing no indication of softening, the pieces United would require to make a permanent offer to Uremovic and his representative appear to be falling into place.

The latest round of sanctions mean the eventual title winners in Scotland, where Ange Postecoglou’s men are on course to depose arch-rivals Rangers, will replace Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League while Russia’s mens and womens teams have also been barred from international tournaments.

As well as the political tensions between Vladmir Putin’s Kremlin and many nations in the west - Croatia recently ordered staff at its embassy in Moscow to return home - Uremovic’s decision to join United is understood to have angered members of Kazan’s hierarchy. If his country’s leaders in Zagreb do not feel it is safe for their diplomats to continue working in the Russian capital, it seems likely they would support any move by Uremovic to declare his deal there null and void. It is unclear exactly when this expires.

Filip Uremovic impressed for Sheffield United before Chris Basham's return to action: Simon Bellis / SportimageFilip Uremovic impressed for Sheffield United before Chris Basham's return to action: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Filip Uremovic impressed for Sheffield United before Chris Basham's return to action: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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Heckingbottom confirmed United now hold the centre-half’s registration following his decision to head to England and, despite the uncertainty caused by talk of a takeover bid in South Yorkshire, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief would undoubtedly be keen on keeping Uremovic should that possibility arise.

United will enter their final fixture of the regular campaign fifth in the table, two points ahead of seventh placed Middlesbrough and three in front of Millwall in eighth. Fulham have already been promoted after thrashing Luton Town, who slipped to sixth on goal difference, 7-0 on Monday.